Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Wigan And The FA Cup - A Match Made In Heaven.

The FA Cup. The competition that has in recent seasons, dwindled with regards to support and general interest amongst the general footballing community. So perhaps it was fitting that this seemingly unfashionable competition, was won by what can be described as a seemingly unfashionable club in Wigan Athletic. It rekindled memories of FA Cup campaigns past and the glory of the oldest competition in the world, restoring it to its former self.

In recent years it has been disregarded by the FA. Kick off times have been varied to factor in corporate sponsors, TV audiences and the far superior Champions League Final at Wembley. Fans have been alienated by the ticketing policy and the simple lack of consideration by the authorities towards them. But amongst all of that, it's terrific that Wigan, little old Wigan, has reminded us of what the FA Cup is all about.

Despite the kick off time, Saturday's match brought supporters back to a time when English football was dominated by rich owners and foreign investors. A club at the heart of the community, a club that remains grounded - a club that made the FA Cup feel pure again. 

If you ask supporters, they still care about the grand old competition very much. Especially lower league supporters. It gives them the opportunity to dream, the opportunity to go on an adventure and the opportunity to go on a once-in-a-lifetime rollercoaster ride against teams far mightier than their own. Crawley Town, Brentford and Macclesfield as well as all Conference clubs will vouch for that.

So it's even more refreshing that this year's winners know what that feels like. To taste victory in the way that they did is an amalgamation of 81 years of planning, toil and hard work. They've been to the depths of non-league; they know what it's like for the majority of the clubs in Britain. And that's what makes it even more special. Not only that but it provides a template for lower league clubs, something to aspire and look up to in the future which is perhaps a poignant part of Wigan's winning legacy.

It is perhaps even more fitting that Wigan's win should come in a year when sponsors Budweiser nearly tore the heart out of the competition completely. In the earlier rounds, they made a mockery of the cup, allowing former stars to ply their trade for Wembley FC in the preliminary rounds. Whilst it may be terrific for Wembley, it provided an unfair advantage against other clubs and what's more, almost made the cup a brand to be bought and sold as a product of promotion.

Wigan have turned Budweiser's theory on its head. You don't need world class players to do well, you need grit, determination and belief - something that the megastars of Manchester City lacked on Saturday evening. They looked disinterested as if it was just another medal for the trophy cabinet, which is why Wigan won. They wanted it more, they have that extra incentive to do it and to prove the doubters wrong - and for that I admire them. 

What makes it even better is that the goal was a mirror of Lawrie Sanchez's of Wimbledon against Liverpool in 1988. And similarly to that header, Ben Watson's flick has equal significance now. It gave the town something to cheer about, it gave football something to cheer about - a real success story that proves rewards can come to those who wait. And that budgeting correctly does in fact bring rewards, and they taste all the more sweet when they do come. 

This success in particular gives a spark of inspiration to those in a similar position to what Wigan were, all those years ago. There's nothing to counter the suggestion that with the right management and a small degree of investment, teams in the third division and below can't emulate the Latics' feat. And with Wigan's 1-0 victory, teams will firmly believe that such a feat is achievable.

In a sense I suppose you could say it was the Shabby Chic team that defeated the Shabby Sheikh himself. Wigan, the most unfashionable team in the land defeating the side that cruelly took promotion to the second division away from them 14 years previous. Not only is it a fantastic achievement for Wigan, but it's a fantastic achievement for football and for the FA Cup.

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.


  1. Not sure I agree with your sentiment. In fact I would say sentiment has ruled your judgement.
    Wigan have been bankrolled by the lovely Mr Whelan and the Premier League/Sky TV so it is not really a success for the smaller clubs.
    Back in the day Wimbledon had no money at all, a ramshackle ground and no support yet they beat Liverpool, the League Champions. That was a true underdog story. West Ham, of Division Two, beat the mighty Arsenal, the holders, in 1980. Another underdog story. Sunderland, battling relegation from Division Two, beat Champions Leeds in 1973.
    Wigan are part of the elite now and while their success was great for the town and the club, it should not be taken as a triumph for the small clubs.
    Yes, clubs like Dagenham should be able to dream and hope that one day a Whelan or a Walker will give them the finances to dine at the top table but ultimately without the money ploughed into the club, Wigan would not have been celebrating on Saturday night.
    This season's FA Cup has had its fair share of shocks but lets not get carried away. Wigan are one of the top 20 clubs in the richest league in the World.

  2. Great read Dagger and thanks for the kind words to my ome town team who I have supported since 1972 as a kid watchin us play in the Northerm Prem, Was at wembley last Saturday & kept having flash backs to ou days at the old Springfield Park, happy happy times. As a club we have never forgotten our roots & we are a small club & long may that remain!, To all fans of clubs who are in the position we were when I started watchin Wigan as a 9 year old kid 'Dare to Dream' Good Luck to all.

  3. This is really well written. Was shocked to see you're just a college student.